Interview: Adeyinka Yusuf, founder of Street Shooters NG speaks to PM News.

Q: Can you tell me what the Street Shooters is all about?
A: The Street Shooters NG is a street photography collective in Nigeria. It is made up of mostly emerging photographers in Nigeria who collectively go out on the streets to shoot from time to time.

Q: Why street shooting? What motivates the initiative?
A: I chose street photography because it enables me to understand my reality, and to express my interpretation of the world around me. When I decided to specialise on street photography, I had several projects I wanted to work on. But when I went out on the streets to start working on these projects, I had a lot of challenges. From the hostility of people, to harassment by area boys, to arrest by the police.

Later on, I realized that when several photographers go out on the streets together, the challenges I faced as an individual becomes drastically reduced. That is why I formed the Street Shooters NG. Thus, the Street Shooters NG is my way of dealing with those challenges.

Q: What are the hazards of your genre of photography?
A: The hazards are many, and they are inherent in the society we live in. Although not peculiar to our society, it is much severe here. The state of our security also makes matters worse. When people see you brandishing a big camera on the street and taking photos, a lot goes through their minds. They think you are up to no good. It’s either you are spying on them for the government or the newspapers or some other thing that is will end up bad for them. So they get scared and become hostile. The thing is, most people are afraid of what they don’t understand. The police too are afraid of you because they know they are always doing something improper and if you capture them in such a state, the repercussions for them will be grave. The area boys on the other hand just like to show how aggressive they are every chance they get, so we suffer from them a lot.

Personally, I’ve been arrested by the police; I’ve been threatened a lot of times by people; and I’ve been beaten up by area boys. It’s a miracle I have been able to scale through it all with my camera still intact.

Q: Of what benefit is this to photography?

A: Our primary mission is to ensure street photography gain acceptability in Nigeria. It is our hope that by going on the streets all the time, Nigerians will get used to us and therefore tolerate the individual street photographer more. We also want to be the bearer of our own torch. We want to tell our stories ourselves. The days when outsiders come to tell jaundiced stories about us are over. We want to project the positives in our society to the world. And we want to do it, not through sugarcoated stories, but through the realistic form that is street and documentary photography.

Q: What comes to mind when you aim to take a shot?

A: How to compose the image, the perfect angle to shoot from and the right settings to use. Depending on how significant the shot is, I also think about the risks involved. If it’s of a person that might be offended, I consider asking the person for permission to take the shot.

Q: Do you have any national project in mind?

A: So far, our walks have been holding within Lagos. The pictures taken at the last photowalk in Mile 12 which shows how enterprising the people working there are will be published into a book and presented to the state government. We are also working on giving the Street Shooters NG a proper structure and backing whereby every member can go out on their own to shoot without fear, no matter what part of the country they are. Another plan we have is making sure we document every national event that takes place in the country.

Q: If opportune, who would you wish to photograph on the street?

A: That will be Governor Fashola. I hear he goes out on the streets to inspect on-going projects from time to time.

Q: How Profitable is this genre?

A: A lot of people don’t know this, but street photography is much more profitable and prestigious than other genres of photography. There are a lot of opportunities in this field; you just have to poised to get them. There are workshops and residences and commissions all over the world organized specifically for street photographers. Not to talk of exhibitions where you can sell one of your works for as much as $2,000.

Q: What can you say about Peter Obe?

A: Although I didn’t really know much about him prior to now, I have however been hearing a lot about him, especially after his death a few days ago. I did a little research and discovered all the work he did documenting the Nigerian civil war and pioneering photojournalism. Evidently, he was a great guy.

Q: How can you photographically caption Nigeria’s present situation?

A: I will say we are caught up in a time warp. Like, a lot is going on presently and there’s a potential for a brighter future but at the same time, we are still stuck with our old ways.

Q: Photography is becoming an all comers affair, do you envisage a meltdown?

A: No, I don’t. I think we are growing bigger, actually. After the music/movies and fashion industry, I think photography is the fastest growing industry in Nigeria. A lot of development is going on in the field and the Street Shooters NG is also an agent of that development.

This interview was first published in the PM Newspapers of 29 October 2013.

Using Shot Lists Will Make You a Better Photographer

When I first started shooting, I would spend absolutely no time planning my shots. I would focus tons of time and energy into every other aspect (location, wardrobe, mood, etc) but in some weird turn of events, it must have slipped my mind that the end goal is “The Shot.” How that slipped my mind still baffles me. Instead of putting in the effort to plan what my actual finished images would look like, I found a model, found a location and showed up on shoot day with a plan to wing it. I would put together shots on the spot and when I was ready to move on to the next one, I would. To be honest, I am glad I started off this way because I believe it gave me a strong ability to think on the spot while on set which is something I often put into practice but as I started to find more value in preparation I began to plan every aspect of my shoots in order to have the most control of my final images.

Now, instead planning to wing it, I create with a complete shot list and I already know what my finished shoot will look like before I even step foot on set. This switch was a huge change in the way I do things but it puts me in a better frame of mind on shoot day and keeps me more organized and effective than I ever was.

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This is what my a page of my pre-shoot planning looks like. Yes, I know that your 5 year old sister can probably sketch better than I am. That’s why I am a photographer. Even though they don’t belong in a museum, these sketches help me keep me organized on set and often times, sketching out a shot will spark an idea for something else that I may not have had otherwise. You may have noticed that in the top left corner, I have a little check box to mark after I get the shot and in the top right corner I have written down the lens on plan on using depending on what mood I want to draw out. Organization keeps me sane.

Shot lists are just about the last thing I work on before shoot day. At this point, I already have almost all of the visual details worked out (wardrobe, location, mood, hair, make up, etc.) and just need to plan what my finished images should look like. This is where my trusty journal comes in (these journals are my personal favorite). My shot lists started as a few scribbles and notes of things I wanted to remember to shoot and now include a full rundown of shots (some are even sketched out) that I want to bring to life. These are all shots that I had visualized and loved. I had already seen the outcome in my mind and all I have to do is create them.

Making these shot lists left me with a shoot that was practically already finished and ensured that I didn’t have an image in my head that I might forget to create. Even though this means you have a complete shoot built out, don’t feel restricted. It is absolutely okay to go off script. I always bring a shot list to my sets but I spend about 50% of my time completing the list and 50% going off book. This means that even if 100% of my unplanned shots are complete failures, I still have a complete shoot because of the images I had visualized before hand and brought to life.

Shot lists come in all shapes and sizes. If you are shooting a test or personal work, you have the freedom to include anything you want and leave out what you don’t. The joy in test shooting is that it is absolutely free of pressure and restraint. On the other hand, if you are working for a client, they may have a shot list already made up for you that includes a list of images that work for the advertising or editorial campaign that you are shooting for. If that is the case, easy peasy. You have the list and you are set to go! If not, you have a bit more work to do.

When I am working on a shot list I typically spend about 5-10 minutes freely writing every possible shot that comes to my head. The good, the bad and the ugly (and sometimes the hideous). I get everything out and then begin to narrow it down into a list that I feel fits exactly what I am aiming for. Typically, I break my lists down into three sections; Must Haves, Details, and Extras. The Must Have list includes the images that I would be absolutely heart broken if I forgot. These will be the shots that drive the shoot in the direction it needs to go.

For example, in my recent Mountain Fitness shoot these would include the shots of my model running, stretching, posing, etc. Next up is the Details list. These are the shots of things that draw more attention to the smaller aspects and can help solidify the shoot as a whole. In that same shoot, these would be the shots of the model tying up her shoes, putting up her hair, her shoes on the ground or even one of her foot prints on the trail. Last up is the Extras list. These would include all of the other shots that I would want if time permits. When on set, I am under the schedule of the sun. Since I shoot in almost all natural light, I need to budget my time so I don’t run out of light with items still on my list. This is why I have an Extras list. If I have a shot in my head that I want but isn’t crucial to the shoot, it goes here. If there is still light left after completing the Must Haves and the Details list, I move on to the Extras. Having this well organized shot list keeps me sane, organized and effective on set.

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It is pretty much a given that most photographers are visual people. That means that when a spark of inspiration hits, we already know what we want our finished images to look like. This is why shot lists are just about the easiest part of our planning process. This is also why we don’t have any excuses for not building them out. Consider yourself encouraged to spend a little bit of extra time to plan your shots and I promise you that not only will your shoots seem less chaotic and stressful, but you will come out on the other end with images that make you proud.

Culled from FStoppers

Using Your Histogram to Get Better Photographs

One of the most powerful tools for photographers that has come about with digital photography is the histogram – that little graph you see on the LCD screen of your camera after you shoot an image. Yet many people don’t know anything about the histogram. This is a huge oversight, as a histogram can be massively helpful in enabling you to take better images in almost any shooting situation.
What is a Histogram?

A histogram is simply a visual representation in graph form of the tonal information that your camera records when shooting an image.
How Do I Read a Histogram?

Histograms are actually quite easy to read once you know what you are looking at. The left side of the histogram represents the shadows and the right side represents the highlights.

Memory Tip: If you cannot remember that, just think “black and white” – black is first, therefore on the left and white is second, therefore on the right.

The different colours in the images in this article represent the different tonal values. Therefore a high peak of one colour means you have a lot of that tonal value.

If a peak is jammed up hard against one side of the graph or the other then it means that the camera has rendered the shadows as pure black (left side) or highlights as pure white (right side) – this is sometimes known as clipping. This is to be avoided if possible as it means you are losing detail in those areas.

NOTE: The histogram on the back of your camera will be monochrome unlike the images below which are from post-processing software. Don’t let that confuse you, as it’s the shape we are trying to draw your attention to.

Terrible: Indicates Underexposure and Loss of Detail in Shadows

Terrible: Indicates Underexposure and Loss of Detail in Shadows

Terrible: Indicates Overexposure and Loss of Detail in Highlights

Terrible: Indicates Overexposure and Loss of Detail in Highlights

Note: Often, only a part of the histogram will be up against the edge while the rest is more centered. Any part of the graph up against the edge indicates that some of the detail has been lost.
When Are Histograms Important?

If you are planning on doing post-production on your images in a program like Photoshop or GIMP, then you want to capture as much information as possible. The histogram can tell you whether you have done this or not – oftentimes much better than the LCD image itself.

In general, it is better to “shoot to the right.” That means that you are ideally wanting to get a histogram that is predominantly on the right of the graph (without being pushed up against the edge). The image may even look overexposed on your camera LCD screen. The reason for this is that the highlights, which are represented on the right part of the histogram, capture a lot more information than shadows. If your histogram is to the right, then the image file is storing a much larger amount of information about that image than if the histogram is to the left. The right hand side of the histogram holds 90% of the raw data – the left side of the histogram only 10% – it is not an even spread.

That means, if you “shoot to the right,” you have more information to work with when you get to Photoshop. In turn that means you can do more work on the image before you start to get the negative effects of noise and other undesirable outcomes.
When are Histograms Less Important?

If you don’t plan on doing any post-production, then you are most often looking for a classic “bell curve” shape for you histogram. This generally indicates a good exposure with an even spread of highlights and shadows that will probably stand ok on its own.

Note the Relatively Even Bell Curve Shape

Note the Relatively Even Bell Curve Shape

What Does This Mean for Shooting?

If you are “shooting to the right” then that means getting more light into the camera (assuming your histogram is too far left). The easy way to do this is to overexpose the image by a stop or two.


A Histogram to the Right Allows More Flexibility in Post Processing

A Histogram to the Right Allows More Flexibility in Post Processing

This Histogram Would Make Post-Processing Slightly Less Flexible

This Histogram Would Make Post-Processing Slightly Less Flexible

You might have a few problems when doing this when shooting very bright subjects. Use your judgment there, but remember that it can be easy to blow out too many pixels in such a situation, in which case you need to reign it in a little. If the histogram is crammed up against the right side, you’re probably going too far.

All in all, using a histogram doesn’t need to be rocket science. Once you are comfortable with it, you will probably use a histogram far more than the image on your LCD screen to judge the exposure of your images.


Dispelling 9 Myths About Professional Photography

Q: Who wants to be a professional photographer?

A: Everyone who owns a camera.

Okay, that answer might be a bit hyperbolic, but sometimes it really does seem that way; there are so many people — photographers and non-photographers alike — who harbor some rather fantastical ideas about how easy it is to become a professional photographer.

You’ve got a nice camera and a business card. You’re all set!

Hardly. Although plenty of pros have started out with not much more than a camera and a few clients, they quickly realized that the greater challenge was to turn it all into a gainful endeavor. There are any number of things that might conspire to contribute to how successful, or unsuccessful, anyone’s photography business becomes. As with anything in life, there are no guarantees.

But if attitude and perception play any kind of role in determining success or failure, it’s time for people to re-think some things; things that would-be professionals think about the business, and things that non-photographers think about professional photographers. Myths and misconceptions abound on both ends. Let’s discuss some of them.

  • Having a DSLR means your work is 99% done already. As if the camera spits out a “good” photo every time, even if the shot is poorly composed and/or exposed. The camera itself is, obviously, an invaluable tool to the photographer, but it’s still just that: a tool. Never discount the talent of the individual behind the camera.
  • Asking a professional what kind of camera they use or how much their camera cost is a compliment. It’s not. You’re basically intimating that the only reason their photos are so nice is because they’ve got a “nice” camera. Admiring the quality of their work or the skill it must take to achieve what they have is actually a compliment. This, in fact, applies to any skilled photographer, professional or not.
  • Getting lots of compliments means it’s time to turn pro. It’s time to turn pro when people start offering to buy your work. Compliments are great, but they’re not the litmus test for whether you can or should enter the world of professional photography. Of course your friends and family compliment your work; it looks better than their snapshots. But clients don’t care if your shots are better than theirs; they want the photos you take of them to look like what they’ve seen in books and magazines.
  • A second camera is optional. When you first picked up photography as a hobby, it was perfectly acceptable to have one camera and maybe a couple of lenses. But part of being a professional means being prepared for anything and maximizing your potential. Which means having at least one backup camera. You never know what might go wrong, and having to walk away from a shoot because your camera stopped working isn’t very professional.
  • A nice website will bring in all the clients a photographer could ever hope for. It doesn’t quite work that way. A nice website will make a client’s visit to it an enjoyable experience, but you have to have a client to begin with. And you don’t get them just because you put up a good collection of shots on a slick-looking site. Your website needs text also; it needs to be optimized for search engines. Who you are, where you are, what you are. It’s the only way people will find you online.
  • Clients have the same creative vision as the photographer. More often than not, they don’t. Clients often purchase more standard fare when it comes time to select their shots: head and shoulders, simple poses, smiling. There’s nothing wrong with that; the client cares more about how he or she looks than how creative the photo is. But part of that is conditioning. Once a client becomes comfortable with you, they’ll be more in tune with and accepting of your creativity.
  • A verbal agreements and handshakes are suitable contracts. Only if you’re trying to ruin your own life. I understand fully that creative types often have little interest in the business/legal side of things, but if you’re in business for yourself you don’t have much of a choice. Put it in writing! A lawsuit — win or lose — is a headache you can do without. Never do paid work without a signed, legally binding document. If you join a professional photography trade association they will likely provide a standard form so you can save yourself the disastrous outcome of trying to pen your own contract.

Contracts by NobMouse, on Flickr
  • Professional photographers only have to work whenever they feel like it. Nope. Not if the plan is to be in any way profitable. You have to have a working understanding of marketing and sales; you have to schedule shoots and fulfill orders; you have to maintain your website. The list goes on. Being a professional photographer is, in many ways, a ‘round the clock effort and for much of that time, you won’t even be behind the camera.
  • Enjoy photography? Then you’ll love being a professional photographer. It’s easy to feel that way when you’re shooting for the fun of it, shooting what you want, when you want, and how you want. But once you start shooting for someone else, shooting to satisfy someone else, working to meet someone else’s demands, your outlook will probably change. Not to mention all that business/legal/marketing/sales stuff you’re going to have to handle — just be very sure that you are prepared for how becoming a professional is going to impact your hobby.

Snap Happy by Damian Gadal, on Flickr

There are enough myths and misconceptions out there to fill several books. The ones listed here aren’t intended to discourage anyone or to point fingers at anyone who may have ever bought into such a mindset — these things aren’t true 100% of the time for 100% of people. But they are common enough to warrant a discussion. Awareness benefits everyone.